We think that Apple's answer to Microsoft Office - featuring its Pages, Numbers and Keynote offerings - is great. But the fact is that more people use Office than any other suite of tools. Hence many a Mac user will be looking for the latest information about the next version of Microsoft Office for Mac.

Microsoft, like so many other companies, offers a subscription edition of Office - namely Office 365. This version is regularly updated with new features. But not everyone wants to subscribe on a monthly or yearly basis to software.

If you don't need the latest features and functions an old version of Microsoft Word may be good enough. If you happen to work in an area where regular updates might actually cause problems and break essential workflows, Office 365 might be unsuitable. Similarly professional users who don't want to move to the cloud will be looking for an alternative to the cloud based Office solution.

Microsoft seems to recognise this, because even when it released Office 2019 it said that it wouldn't be the last time it would release a perpetual licensed version of Office. The company clarified this again in a blog post back in September 2020 when it revealed its plans to release new perpetual license version of Office - Office 2021.

In February 2021 Microsoft confirmed these plans again. Announcing two new versions of Office. And then in October 2021 Microsoft announced that it would launch the new version of Office for Mac on Tuesday 5 October.

There will be two versions: Office Home & Student 2021 - a version is for home users and students; Office Home & Business 2021 - for those who want Outlook too; and Office LTSC for enterprises that want to deploy to a number of seats.

Office 2021 release date

Microsoft's new version of Office for Mac launched on Tuesday 5 October. (The same time as Microsoft Office 365 was updated).

There will be versions for Windows 10 and macOS.

What's in Office 2021 for Mac

Office 2021 will include Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It will also include Teams, the online conferencing program, which was previously only included in Office business packages. There is more on the new features that are coming to Office 2021 below.

Office 2021 price

While some customers will no doubt opt for the 365 subscription package there will always be customers who would rather buy Office 2021 outright - often referred to as a perpetual license. This means they will not need to take out an annual subscription to use it.

This license will include five years of support for Office 2021 (normally Microsoft offers ten years support though). Office LTSC must be purchased for each device, but the license does not have to be renewed after purchase.

The prices haven't changed from the prices of the perpetual license versions of Office 2019, which launched in late 2018.

  • The new version of Office for Mac is Office Home & Student 2021, it costs £119.99/US$149.99. This is the same as the price for Office Home & Student 2019.
  • There is also a new Office Home & Business 2021 (£249.99/$249.99) which is designed for families and small businesses who want the office apps Word, Excel, PowerPoint as well as Outlook.
  • You can also buy the Office LTSC (which means Long Term Servicing Channel and is essentially the perpetual license version of Microsoft Office for businesses and volume customers) It costs £249.99/$249.99. The price is 10% more than the equivalent 2019 package. Details of how to upgrade are on Microsoft's site here.

Microsoft is promising that after Office LTSC there will be another stand-alone version without a subscription, so 2021 won't be the last version of Office that you can buy outright.

Office 2021 features

Microsoft has visually revised all programs in line with Windows 11. There will also be support for improved dark mode.

Office 2021 gains some features that were previously only accessible to Microsoft 365 subscribers.

For all Office programs Microsoft has extended the collection of graphics, photos and icons.

Office 2021 users can now work on a Word or Excel document simultaneously in real time.

Line Focus is another new feature. This is designed to reduce distraction when writing text by focusing on a single line at a time.

You'll be able to add any phrase into the Tell Me search box to find what you are looking for.

A new Sketched style outline means you can draw and save unique shapes to use in presentations.

You will be able to save as SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic) format.

New Excel features

Excel for Mac receives some formulas in the Office 2021 version that were previously only available in the Business variant. New features include XLOOKUP in Excel, which should make it easier to search in Excel documents. You will be able to perform searches for the values in the columns on the left or right of the reference column as well as search for the position in the table. XMATCH will make it possible to search for an item and return the relative position. LET functions (which assign names to  calculations) are also new in Excel 2021 for Mac.

A new Watch Window will be ideal for large worksheets and Dynamic arrays mean users will be able to write one formula and return an array of values. 

New PowerPoint features

A PowerPoint presentation can now be saved as a GIF file, Word and PowerPoint now save newly created graphics and images as SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic Format), especially popular when creating web pages, as the images can be scaled arbitrarily without loss of quality.

You will also be able to record a slide show with narration in PowerPoint.

Another new feature is being able to replay ink strokes as they were drawn so you can illustrate things.

New Word features

Word will be able to predict a sentence based on a word you type. This 'Text Predictions' feature has already been introduced to the web-based version of Outlook. The feature works if the user starts to write a typical phrase or at least a common phrase that the Microsoft program can identify. An example would be: "all that glitters isn't ...". Word would now suggest "gold" because it recognises the phrase "all that glitters isn't gold".

Word displays the suggested word in grey. If the user wants to accept the proposal from Word, they must either press the Tab key or the right arrow key to accept it. To reject the suggestion just press the Escape key.

The Immersive Reader gains advanced colour support so you can avoid eye strain by choosing a background colour for a page, for example.

Microsoft has also added Natural-sounding voices to Read Aloud.

Other changes

There are improved accessibility features.

The Skype for Business client app will be available for download separately by Office LTSC users from the Microsoft Download Center.

Both new Office versions will come with OneNote and be available as both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

Will Office 365 continue?

Microsoft will continue to offer the Microsoft 365 cloud solution as the preferred solution alongside Office 2021 and Office LTSC.

We have lots of advice about buying Office for Mac here: Office for Mac buying guide. Also read: How to get free Microsoft Office on iPad and iPhone. and How to get Microsoft word for free on Mac.

Office 2021 specs

Office 2021 will require a Mac with at least 4GB RAM and 10GB of free storage space. It will only available as a 64bit version, and currently supports macOS Big Sur, Catalina and Mojave, and will support Monterey too.

The office suite is optimised for both Intel processors and the M1 chip. Read: Which apps work on M1 Macs.